By Lucie Beraud-Sudreau, Research Fellow for Defence Economics and Procurement, and Bastian Giegerich, Director of Defence and Military Analysis
In September 2014, Nato heads of state agreed at the Wales Summit to make an obligation out of what hitherto had only been a recommendation: to spend 2 per cent of their GDP on defence. Those who were spending less should undertake efforts to lift themselves to this level within ten years—by 2024. According to the IISS' Military Balance 2018 report only two European countries met this spending target in 2017: Estonia and Greece cleared the bar at 2.1 per cent and 2.3 per cent respectively, but the United Kingdom dipped below the threshold at 1.98 per cent. Poland reached only 1.9 per cent. These figures of course pale in comparison to the United States’s 3.3 per cent.
The 2 per cent target has become increasingly prominent in debates on European defence and security, and turned into a political constraint for government leaders. But is the figure actually relevant to understanding states’ defence capabilities? There are in fact several problems with the target, which include how the 2 per cent is counted and whether the money is actually well spent.
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